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  • Writer's pictureVoces Unidas Action Fund

New legislation helps clear the path to Environmental Justice in DICs

At Voces Unidas, we are continuously fighting for Environmental Justice, Housing Justice and Health Justice, which is why we threw our support behind a four-bill package aimed at curbing oil and gas emissions by changing the state’s permitting process, halting drilling in the summer and increasing potential penalties for companies that violate their air-pollution permits.

It’s also why we’re shifting our support for three of those bills – SB24-165 (Air Quality Improvements), SB24-166 (Air Quality Enforcement), and HB24-1330 (Air Quality Permitting) – to a recently negotiated legislative package likely to play a pivotal role in assisting disproportionately impacted communities suffering environmental injustices in Colorado.

Pulling those bills helps clear the path for the deal negotiated between Gov. Jared Polis, state legislators, environmentalists and key players in the oil and gas industry that takes the form of two new bills introduced in the final days of the session ending May 8. One of the new bills – SB24-229 (Ozone Mitigation Measures) – aims to accomplish similar goals by reducing emissions and improving air quality through new permitting and enforcement authority.

The other – SB24-230 (Oil & Gas Production Fees) – creates a fluctuating production fee on oil and gas that would go toward supporting transit in Colorado while setting aside a portion to help restore public lands impacted by oil and gas production.

We are supporting SB24-229, although we recognize that this is a package deal. If both new bills pass, legislators and stakeholders on both sides have agreed not to run any new ballot measures or legislation until the policies are implemented. Without the bills, the oil and gas industry was poised to introduce ballot measures that aimed to roll back state regulations along with years of climate progress in Colorado.

Although they aren’t perfect, the new bills offer significant progress for disproportionately impacted communities statewide, primarily by providing needed protections from pollution. Among its multiple provisions for emission reduction and enforcement, SB24-229 authorizes the hiring of community liaisons to assist communities that are likely to experience high levels of harm from poor environmental quality, helping them navigate the path to justice.

The bill will also include funding to address orphan wells and remediation of high-risk "marginal wells" that may be abandoned to become uninhibited greenhouse gas emitters that directly impact many of the communities where Voces Unidas works.

In Garfield County alone, there are more than 12,000 active wells, any of which could be abandoned with little consequence to operators under the current rules. Meanwhile, the implications for people in surrounding communities – everything from the cost of cleaning and capping orphaned wells to respiratory illness from excessive ozone exposure – is consequential indeed.

While more is needed to address the environmental impacts of oil and gas on disproportionately impacted communities, these new bills are a step in the right direction to hold oil and gas facilities more accountable for their emissions.


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